Tudor murder-mystery drama ‘Shardlake’ casts Sean Bean as Thomas Cromwell

Disney+ has revealed the cast for its upcoming period drama Shardlake.

Based on the popular series of novels by C.J. Sansom, the show is created by The Last Kingdom writer Stephen Butchard.

Filming has already begun in Hungary, Austria and Romania, with Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) directing.

Set in 16th century England during the dissolution of the monasteries, we’re told that the four-part mini-series will be “drenched in mystery, suspense and deception.”

Leading the cast we have Arthur Hughes (The Innocents) playing Matthew Shardlake, who’s described as “a lawyer with an acute sense of justice and one of the few honest men in a world beset with scheming and plots.”

We’ve got a first look at his character here:

Alongside Hughes, we have Sean Bean as Thomas Cromwell, the dangerous and all-powerful right-hand man to Henry VIII.

“Despite Shardlake’s unwavering loyalty to Cromwell and the Crown, his position in society is unfavoured due to his appearance, as a person living with scoliosis during the Tudor period, suffering the indignity of being abused as a “crookback” wherever he turns,” the press release teases.

Sean Bean has appeared in many of our favourite shows over the years, including Sharpe, Game of Thrones, and World on Fire.

It’s currently unclear if Bean will be back in the second season of World on Fire, which is due later this year – fingers crossed!

The cast of Shardlake also boasts Peter Firth (Spooks) as Norfolk, with Anthony Boyle (Tetris) as Jack Barak, Babou Ceesay (Damilola) as Abbot Fabian, Paul Kaye (Game of Thrones) as Brother Jerome, and Ruby Ashbourne Serkis (Becoming Elizabeth) as Alice.

They’ll be joined by Matthew Steer as Goodhap, Brian Vernel as Brother Mortimus, Irfan Shamji as Brother Guy, David Pearse as Brother Edwig, Miles Barrow as Brother Gabriel, Mike Noble as Bugge, and Kimberley Nixon as Joan.

“Writing Shardlake has been nothing short of a joy,” commented screenwriter Stephen Butchard. “C.J. Sansom’s novels are incredibly rich in story, character and history; full of intrigue, excitement, cruelty and compassion – and at the centre of it all is Matthew Shardlake, a hero like no other.

“Although these stories are set in Tudor England, the themes absolutely engage and resonate with today’s world. Hundreds of years may have past – but humankind and what makes us tick has changed little.”

Shardlake comes from The Forge, who are the makers of Hugh Laurie’s Roadkill, award-winning Covid drama Help, and historical series Becoming Elizabeth.

Starz has sadly cancelled Becoming Elizabeth after just one season due to disappointing viewing figures, so hopefully Shardlake will fare better when it makes its Disney+ debut.

The first season of Shardlake will adapt the opening book in Sansom’s series as an “eerie whodunnit adventure.”

“Shardlake’s sheltered life as a lawyer is turned upside down when Cromwell instructs him to investigate the murder of one of his commissioners at a monastery in the remote town of Scarnsea,” reveals the official synopsis.

“The commissioner was gathering evidence to close the monastery and it is now imperative for Cromwell’s own political survival that Shardlake both solves the murder and closes the monastery. He leaves Shardlake in no doubt that failure is not an option.

“Cromwell insists that he is accompanied by cocky, good-looking Jack Barak (Boyle) and Shardlake is left unsure whether Barak is an assistant, or Cromwell’s spy.

“At Scarnsea, the duo are met with hostility, suspicion and paranoia by the monks who fear for their future and will seemingly stop at nothing to preserve their order.”

C.J. Sansom’s Shardlake novels are available on Amazon.